So, you’ve decided to explore the possibilities of automation and want to take advantage of the benefits it can bring to your self-storage operation. Great! Embracing this change will allow you to enhance customer touchpoints, upgrade your user experience, make better use of staff time, improve your workflow and more.
That said, if you want to ensure the technology works well for your business and team, you’ll need to be prepared for it. You may feel slightly daunted by the prospect of implementing automation, but this article should ease some of your concerns and help you take full advantage of the solutions available.
What Do I Mean By Automation?
In general, automation is any system or process that reduces or eliminates the need for manual intervention from a human. It can play a pivotal role in offering a fast, secure, convenient experience for customers. This is what people have come to expect from modern businesses, and companies that don’t deliver are being left behind.
In the self-storage industry, many operators use online reservation and payment systems to streamline rentals and expedite service. Some are also leveraging tenant-management solutions to automate repetitive tasks and improve communication. For example, customers can rent a unit without ever having to speak to a person. You can then set up your software system to send them automatic payment reminders and even late notices.
The solutions that make this type of customer experience possible are already here. And contrary to what you may think, their goal isn’t to remove staff from the self-storage equation. Instead, technology allows you to think strategically about how to use your team’s time. Rather than bog staff down with tedious administrative duties, give them the opportunity to focus on high-value tasks, like improving revenue, marketing the business and providing the best customer service.
This approach removes bottlenecks in your workflow, too. For example, rather than making a new customer wait for staff attention to rent a unit, allow them to use an online portal or kiosk. If they need a facility-access code, deliver it automatically via mobile app or text message. This prevents renters from getting frustrated with wait times.
In short, creative and strategic tasks are best left to people, while repetitive and mundane ones can be given over to technology. By automating key processes, you can avoid human errors and keep your business running like a well-oiled machine.
Taking Advantage of Automation
To prepare your self-storage facility and take full advantage of the automation technology available, do the following:
Define the tasks and processes that can be automated. This will help you determine which tools will be most beneficial for your business.
Choose the right products. Take time to find the solutions that’ll best meet your needs. There are many on the market, so it’s important to do your research and find the ones that match the unique challenges of your operation.
Train staff. Once you’ve selected and implemented your new tools, teach your team how to use them. This’ll ensure they’re able to make the most of the new technology and your customers are getting the best possible experience. I suggest you assign an individual or group to take the lead as the product experts on your team.
Many self-storage operators assume that automation tools come with a significant learning curve. Fortunately, this isn't the case. There are several plug-and-play products that are easy to deploy, and your team doesn’t require any technical expertise to use most of them.
Evaluate and adjust as needed. As with any new purchase, it’s important to assess how well the technology works. If a tool isn’t meeting your needs, don’t hesitate to adjust or replace it. Automation comes at a price, but there are affordable options out there, and you should think of it as an investment rather than a cost. However, if it doesn’t help you optimize your operation, fix it before it becomes a drain on your resources.
Automation may not be right for every self-storage facility, but when deployed correctly, it can offer numerous benefits for your business. Just make sure you prepare your team and customers for its use. That’s the best way to ensure you maximize the investment.
Rodolfo Ramirez is cofounder and chief operating officer of swivl, which offers self-storage operators of all sizes an artificial-intelligence assistant that can answer common customer questions as well as identify and qualify new leads. The company helps users put 80% of repetitive tasks on autopilot. For more information, email [email protected].